Happy Independence Day! It’s that time of year when we celebrate our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But sometimes, when you’re swamped, stressed and under your boss’ thumb — you might start feeling like you’re chained to your cubicle instead of enjoying America the Beautiful (e.g. spacious skies, amber waves of grain, majestic purple mountains).
But no matter what crisis you’re facing this week in the office, it’s important that you remember to take advantage of your unalienable right to reach for happiness:
1. Freedom to Actually Take Your Vacation Days
The world has dubbed the U.S. the “No Vacation Nation” – a nickname well-warranted, considering we require the fewest vacation days out of any other country in the world. Prepare to be green with envy: CNN reported the United Kingdom requires companies to give all British employees 28 paid vacation days per year! France and Greece require 25. Guess how many the US requires? Zilch!
It’s cool, however — most US employers willingly allow roughly 14 or so the first year (and more after that). But here’s the real kicker: more than half of us don’t even take the vacation days we have. Fifty-seven percent of working Americans had unused vacation time at the end of 2011, CNN reported.
Taking a break from your day-to-day stress will make you happier both in the short and long run. Give yourself peace of mind by following these tips before you jet set off from sea to shining sea (Hawaii, Cancun, your bed — whatever floats your boat!).
2. Freedom to Leave Your Desk for Lunch
You have a right to one hour of work-free lunchtime. But 65 percent of Americans are spending their lunch hour trapped in the office, according to a survey by Right Management, a human resources consulting firm. How can your taste buds relish the mouth-watering flavor of an animal style In-N-Out burger (or Five-Guys equivalent, for you east coasters) while you’re busy proofing, reading, emailing, phoning, etc. at the same time?
This week, try stepping out of the office and really feed yourself a decent meal –Eat, Pray, Love style. We know what you’re thinking: You’re way too swamped with work. Take baby steps and aim to schedule lunch for yourself at least once.
3. Freedom to Ask for Feedback
Asking for feedback is kind of like asking for a roadmap towards success. And as Americans, you are legally entitled to ask for feedback on your performance, according to Angela Reddock, national workplace expert and Los Angeles employment expert. It’s also one of the best ways to feel happier at work — even if its negative feedback — because at the very least you will get a stirring eureka! moment about what you can do to improve.You’ve been warned, however: Just as you have the right to ask for feedback, your boss has the right to decline. But, chances are he’s rooting for your (and the company’s) success—so, if it’ll help, why not ask?
4. Freedom to Take Inspirational Breaks
You have the right to seek inspiration, and your breaks are a great time to do this. The labor laws on the extent of your break vary from state to state. But in California, hourly employees have the right to one 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked and one 30 minute meal break for every five hours worked.
Salary folks have a little more leeway and aren’t required to take designated breaks in CA. “These employees are provided more flexibility and discretion in terms of time and method of getting their work done,” Reddock says.
For a happier work environment, use these breaks to step outside and soak in a few sun rays—even if it’s for five minutes. Take a walk with a coworker friend. Browse inspirational CareerBliss Tumblr and Pinterest! Whatever you do—just give your brain a break.
5. Freedom to Celebrate Small Victories
It’s okay to revel a little bit in your successes from time to time. In fact, Marlene Caroselli, author of Hiring and Firing, says that this type of small celebration is an excellent way to boost both happiness and productivity. Of course, “the celebrations should not be designed to non-stop partying,” she says. So save the champagne and boom box for the big milestones (like promotions, big raise, lottery, etc.).
Instead, take a few minutes to smile to yourself about the positives as they happen rather than constantly dwelling on everything that’s going wrong in the office.
6. Freedom to Plug in Some Tunes (Kind Of)Okay so it’s not exactly your right to listen to headphones while working—but if your company culture allows it, then you should take advantage of this freedom! (And even if your company doesn’t allow it, you’re free to plug into headphones during your breaks). Music has some seriously uplifting qualities and can make your work day much happier. Check out these workplace playlists aimed to help you focus, stay productive and happy!
And great news—LifeHacker did a recent report on multitasking and found that you are far less productive doing more than one thing at once (big surprise, right?). But here’s the best part: Listening to music while working isn’t multi-tasking because our brain has a special part for music, which allows us to enjoy music while focusing on other things.